The sport’s governing body has confirmed it was reviewing the name, setting the scene for arguments between old school traditionalists and those who value inclusivity.
The All Whites nickname dates back 40 years to its qualification run to the 1982 World Cup, when New Zealand donned an all-white kit for the first time against Taiwan.
The fan-given nickname stuck, the moniker sitting as an irreverent contrast to the senior men’s rugby side, the All Blacks.
Many New Zealand national sporting side have colour-based nicknames: the men’s cricket side are the Black Caps, the men’s basketball side are the Tall Blacks.
However, none rankle like the All Whites, which can be read to mean excluding other ethnicities.
The question of the name change comes as many New Zealand organisations adopt names and identities that incorporate Maori culture and language.
NZ Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell confirmed the discussions were taking place, saying the body was “on a journey around cultural inclusivity”.
“We are in the process of working with stakeholders across the game, as well as people from outside football, looking at all areas of the organisation to make sure they are fit for purpose in 2021 and beyond,” he said.
“It is too early in the process to speak about any outcomes but this is an important piece of work as we strive to be the most inclusive sport in Aotearoa.”
Harry Ngata – former All Whites player, union representative and commentator – told AAP he didn’t have a personal view and could see both sides of the debate.
“A lot of our sporting teams are based on colour,” he said.
“Twenty years ago the name wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. That’s just the way it was. The class of 2010 are a lot more progressive.
“(A change) is probably inevitable that given the circumstances, the climate we’re living in at the moment.”
Another ex-All Whites star, Ryan Nelsen, told Radio NZ the name should go if “it displeases a tiny minority”.
“Just because it’s been around for (40 years) doesn’t mean it’s right,” the former Premier League defender said.
The Crusaders, the Christchurch-based Super Rugby team, were forced to confront the appropriateness of their team name in the wake of the 2019 Mosques terror attack.
The terrorist – who killed 51 people – used the religious crusades of the Middle Ages as an inspiration for his shooting spree.
The Super Rugby side decided to keep the name but remove provocative aspects of the moniker: including a knight wielding a sword as their logo, and a knight on horseback at matches.